Niavaran (Persian: نياوران ), in the northern part of Tehran, is one of the most affluent and expensive districts of the city. Passing by some of its modern tall buildings with their luxury apartments and ostentatious facades, it is difficult to imagine that it was just a small village until about a century ago. Yet, a closer examination reveals winding leafy backstreets leading to some other remnants of its past, such as crumbling old houses, traditional bakeries, or a public bath.
The documentary film maker, Hadi Afarideh, stumbled upon these when one day he accidentally lost his way in the area. This incident sparked off his interest in the history of Niavaran, and particularly its complex of palaces built during the Qajar and Pahlavi periods in a vast garden of eleven hectares. Situated in the foothills of the Alborz mountains, north of the then much smaller Tehran, Niavaran had a cooler climate compared to the rest of the city. This made it a favourite location for the Qajar rulers to choose as their summer retreat.
Later, during the reign of the last Shah, all the buildings, with the exception of the Sahebqaraniyeh Palace and the Ahmad Shahi Pavilion from the Qajar period, were demolished. They were replaced by a modern palace and several other buildings, which together with the two existing palaces constitute the present-day Niavaran Palace complex. These were all occupied by the revolutionary forces after the Islamic Revolution, and gradually opened to the public many years later.
After extensive and painstaking research into various archives, interviewing several people and encountering many obstacles on the way, Hadi Afarideh finally succeeded in completing his documentary on the fascinating history of Niavaran and its palaces. In this multimedia report, he takes us on a nostalgic journey to this old village.